Tag Archives: Childhood Trauma

BPD And Hallucinations

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What Are Hallucinations?

Hallucinations are PERCEPTIONS that people experience but which are NOT caused by external stimuli/ input. However, to the person experiencing hallucinations, these perceptions feel AS IF THEY ARE REAL and that they are being generated by stimuli/ input outside of themselves (in fact, of course, the perceptions are being INTERNALLY GENERATED by the brain of the person who is experiencing the hallucination).

Different Types Of Hallucination :

There are several different types of hallucination and I summarize these below :

  • VISUAL HALLUCINATIONS – these involve ‘seeing’ something that in reality does not exist or ‘seeing’ something that does exist in a DISTORTED / ALTERED form.
  • AUDITORY HALLUCINATIONS – these, most often, involve ‘hearing’ voices that have no external reality (though other ‘sounds’ may be hallucinated, too).
  • TACTILE HALLUCINATIONS – these occur when an individual feels as if s/he is being touched when, in fact, s/he isn’t (for example, feeling the sensation of insects crawling over one’s skin).
  • GUSTATORY HALLUCINATIONS – these occur when a person perceives a ‘taste’ in his/her mouth in the absence of any external to the person causing the taste.
  • OLFACTORY HALLUCINATION – this type of hallucination is sometimes also referred to as phantosmia and involves perceiving a smell which isn’t actually present.

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BPD And Hallucinations :

Mild hallucinations are actually not uncommon even amongst people with no mental illness (e.g. believing one has heard the doorbell ring when it hasn’t).

At the other end of the scale, however, are fully-blown hallucinations that involve the person who is experiencing them being psychotically detached from reality; for example, someone experiencing a psychotic episode might hear, very clearly and distinctly, voices that s/he fully believes are coming from an external source (such as ‘the devil’ or a dead relative). A person suffering from such hallucinations cannot in any way be convinced that the ‘voices’ are being generated within his/her own head/brain.

It is uncommon for people suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) to suffer from the most serious types of hallucinations (as described above); however, under acute stress (and those with BPD are, of course, far more likely to experience acute stress than the average person), the BPD sufferer may experience hallucinations that fall somewhere between the mild and severe types.

For example, if s/he (the BPD sufferer) was constantly belittled and humiliated by a parent when growing up, s/he may, when experiencing severe stress, ‘hear’ the ‘parent in their head’ saying such things as ‘you’re useless’ or ‘you’re worthless.’

However, unlike the person suffering unambiguously from psychosis, when this occurs s/he is not completely detached from reality but is aware the ‘voices’ are being generated within his/her own mind and are imaginary as opposed to real.

Severe hallucinations may be indicative of schizophrenia but can also have other causes which include : delirium tremens (linked to alcohol abuse), narcotics (e.g. LSD) and sensory deprivation.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Trauma Release Exercises

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THE MIND-BODY CONNECTION :

We have seen how the experience of significant and protracted childhood trauma increases our risk of developing both serious psychological and physical problems as adults – e.g. see the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.

Therefore, therapies for those who, as adults, are suffering the effects of childhood trauma – in the most serious cases in the form of  cPTSD (complex posttraumatic stress disorder) – include not only treatments for the mind, but also ones for the body. (And, because the mind and body are interconnnected, treatments for the body will also, to varying degrees) benefit the mind.

THE FIGHT/FLIGHT/FREEZE STATE :

If we have grown up in an environment in which we were frequently made to feel afraid or threatened (physically, psychologically or both) it is possible the early physical development of our brain has been disrupted in such a way that now, as adults, we find ourselves perpetually, tense, anxious and hypervigilant, or, in other words, continuously in the fight/flight/freeze state.

One result of this is that it can cause us to store up a vast amount of physical and muscular tension.

EXCESSIVE AND CHRONIC TENSION IN THE PSOAS (‘Fight or Flight’) MUSCLE :

A main location in the body where muscular tension accumulates is called the PSOAS muscle (sometimes also referred to as the ‘fight or flightmuscle ; it connects the lumber spine to the legs.

It is sometimes called the fight/flight muscle because when we feel threatened, anxious or fearful, or in response to significant loss, it becomes energized in preparation to assist us with the actions of running away or fighting.

And, if, during childhood, we have frequently been in the fight/flight state this muscle may have become perpetually tensed up to the extent we have habituated to this feeling of tension to such a degree that we no longer register it as abnormal; notwithstanding this, it is an indication that we are still being adversely affected by painful emotions linked to our traumatic childhood (if only on an unconscious level).

TRAUMA RELEASE EXERCISES  (TRE) :

Bercelli, PhD, devised six trauma release exercises designed to alleviate this stored muscular tension. The idea is that the tension is released by a ‘muscular shaking process’ known as ‘neurogenic tremors’ and its purpose is rid us of our deep-seated, chronic, early life trauma-related bodily tension.

 

RESOURCE : You can learn much more about TRE by visiting Dr Bercelli’s website – click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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ABOUT

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Founded February 2013

ABOUT THIS SITE :

This site comprises over 750 concise and accessible articles about childhood trauma and its relationship to :

It also includes a large number of articles relating to therapies and posttraumatic growth.

All articles by David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

ABOUT DAVID HOSIER :

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE) is the founder of this site on which he has published over 750 articles. He has also published several books based on these articles.

He was educated at Goldsmiths College, University of London and holds two degrees in psychology together with a postgraduate diploma in education. He has worked as a lecturer, teacher and researcher.

He is also a childhood trauma survivor and shares some of his experiences on this site.

He suffered serious psychological illness in adulthood which resulted in hospitalizations, ECT, and treatment with major tranquillizers, all to little avail.

He started this blog as a form of self-therapy, and, together with extensive reading, self-analysis and right brain therapies , including self-hypnosis, mindfulness and meditation, this has enabled him to start the life-long process of recovery.

He hopes this blog will also help others.

 

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‘Amygdala Hijack’ And BPD

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One of the main, and most problematic, symptoms that those with borderline personality disorder (BPD) suffer from is the experiencing of disproportionately intense emotional responses when under stress and an inability to control them or efficiently recover and calm down once such tempestuous emotions have been aroused. This very serious symptom of BPD is also often referred to as emotional dysregulation.

The main theory as to why such problems managing emotions occur is that damage has been done to the development of the brain region known as the amygdala in early life due to chronic trauma and, consequently, this area of the brain having been overloaded and overwhelmed by emotions such as fear and anxiety during early development causing a longterm malfunction which can extend well into adulthood or even endure for the BPD sufferer’s entire lifespan (in the absence of effective therapy).

The damage done to the development of the amygdala means that, as adults, when under stress, BPD sufferers are frequently likely to experience what is sometimes referred to as an emotional highjack or, as in the title of this article, an amygdala hijack.

What Is ‘Amygdala Hijack’ And How Does It Prevent Emotional Calm?

When external stimuli are sufficiently stressful, the amygdala ‘shuts down’ the prefrontal cortex (the prefrontal cortex is responsible planning, decision making and intellectual abilities).

In this way, when a certain threshold of stress is passed (and this threshold in far lower in BPD sufferers than the average person’s) the amygdala (responsible for generating emotions, particularly negative emotions such as anxiety, fear and aggression) essentially ‘takes over’ and ‘overrides’ the prefrontal cortex.

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Above : under sufficient stress the prefrontal cortex (the seat of rational thought) is shut down, leaving the amygdala (the seat of intense, negative emotions like anxiety, fear and aggression) to ‘run riot.’

As such, the prefrontal cortex ‘goes offline’ leaving the BPD sufferer flooded with negative emotional responses and unable to reason, by logic or rational thought processes, his/her way out of them.

When the amygdala is ‘highjacked’ in this way, there are three main signs. These are :

1) An intense emotional reaction to the event (or external stimuli)

2) The onset of this intense emotional reaction is sudden

3) It is not until the BPD sufferer has calmed down and the prefrontal cortex comes ‘back online’  (which takes far longer for him/her than it would for the average person) that s/he realizes his/her response (whilst under ‘amygdala highjacking’) was inappropriate, often giving rise to feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, guilt, remorse and regret.

Resources:

Click here for further information.

 

eBook :

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

 

 

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Prolonged Exposure Therapy And Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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Major symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex posttraumatic stress disorder (cPTSD)click here to read about the difference between these two conditions – are fear, anxiety and even terror induced by :

– situations related to the traumatic experience

– people related to the traumatic experience

– places related to the traumatic experience

– activities related to the traumatic experience

Prolonged Exposure Therapy Involves Two Specific Types Of Exposure To Trauma-Related Phenomena :

a) In Vivo Exposure

b) Imaginal Exposure

In Vivo Exposure :

Prolonged exposure therapy works by encouraging the individual with PTSD / cPTSD, in a supportive manner, very gradually, to confront these situations / people / places / activities whilst, at the same time, feeling safe, secure and calm. Because this part of the therapy involves exposure to ‘real life’ situations / people / places / activities it is called in vivo exposure.

This is so important because avoiding these situations / people / places / activities, whilst reducing the individual’s anxiety in the short-term, in the longer-term simply perpetuates, and, potentially, intensifies, his/her fear of these things.

Imaginal Exposure:

The therapy also involves the PTSD / cPTSD sufferer talking over details and memories of the traumatic experience in a safe environment and whilst in a relaxed frame of mind (the therapist can help to induce a relaxed frame of mind by teaching the patient/client breathing exercises and/or physical relaxation techniques; hypnosis can also be used to help induce a state of relaxation). Because this part of the therapy ‘only’ involves mental exposure to the trauma (i.e. thinking about it in one’s mind), it is called imaginal exposure and can help alleviate intense emotions connected to the original trauma (e.g. fear and anger).

Both in vivo and imaginal exposure to the trauma-related stimuli are forms of desensitizing and habituating the patient / client to them, thus reducing his/her symptoms of PTSD / cPTSD.

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How Effective Is Prolonged Exposure Therapy?

Prolonged exposure therapy is a type of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and research into the treatment of PTSD suggests it is the most effective treatment currently available.

What Is The Duration Of The Treatment?

The length of time a patient / client spends in treatment varies in accordance with his/her needs and his/her therapist’s particular approach. However, the usual duration of the treatment is between two and four months, comprising weekly sessions of approximately ninety minutes each.

On top of this, the patient / client will need to undertake some therapeutic exercises/activities in his/her own time, set by the therapist as ‘ homework assignments’. These assignments will include listening to recordings of imaginal exposure therapy sessions.

RESOURCES :

The National Center For PTSD has developed a PROLONGED EXPOSURE APP, or PE APP. Click here for further information and download instructions.

eBook :

 

DIGITAL BOOK THUMBNAIL 1 1 - Prolonged Exposure Therapy And Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Above eBook now available from Amazon for instant download. Other titles available. Click here for further information.
 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

 

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Early Trauma’s Effect On Development Of Id And Ego

 

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According to psychodynamic theory, originally associated with Sigmund Freud (but modernized by various psychologists since), the most crucial part of our psychological development takes place in the earliest years of our lives, between birth and about five years old (this is why very early trauma is especially damaging). A central concept of psychodynamic theory is that our minds comprise three parts, namely the id,  the ego and the superego, which I briefly describe below:

THE ID : According to Freud, the id can be viewed as the primitive part of the mind, driven by biological needs (such as for food and sex), which demand instant gratification ; it is completely unsocialized and its operations are unconscious. It is also described as acting according to the ‘pleasure principle‘ which means it is constantly and potently urging us to gain pleasure, irrespective of consequences (including harmful effects on others and harmful effects on ourselves).

THE SUPEREGO : Basically, the superego represents our conscience which we form by internalizing a sense of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ (or morality) derived from the influence of our parents, education, social environment and culture. Freud stated that whilst some of the operation of the superego is conscious, much of it also occurs on an unconscious level. Our ‘punishment’ for transgressing the superego’s exacting moral standards is guilt.

THE EGO : Freud said that whilst the id operates according to the ‘pleasure principle’, the ego operates according to the ‘reality principle’. Essentially, its task is to mediate between the deeply conflicting demands of the id, the superego and the outside world (and it is this constant need to mediate and reach an unending series of compromises that contributes much to the inner turmoil, tension and anxiety being human must necessarily entail, Freud helpfully informs us). It acts according to reason and will try to inhibit impulses that, if acted upon, would lead to harm; in other words, it takes into account the possible consequences of our actions.

I remember, as a first year psychology undergraduate, our lecturer telling us that the ego’s job could, perhaps not wholly inaccurately, be compared to that of a referee who finds himself constantly obliged to oversee a fight between a ‘crazed chimpanzee’ and ‘a puritanical, pious and forbidding grandmother.’

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Above : The perpetual battle between the id and superego, with the ego always having to act mediator.

It is theorized that if the infant is traumatized in early life, through lack of adequate care, s/he will fail to learn to control his/her basic drives and impulses and the development of his/her ego will be impaired. This can lead to various problems including :

  • poor ability to tolerate frustration
  • poor ability to inhibit impulses that may lead to harm (too likely to act in accordance with the dictates of the id due to deficits in ego development)
  • lack of consideration concerning the possible effects of one’s actions upon others / not taking into account the needs of others (including, as an infant, impaired ability to pick up on verbal and visual cues of the mother / primary care-giver)
  • impaired judgment
  • impaired ability to think logically and with clarity

It is thought that these problems occur as inadequate care that traumatizes the infant can damage the actual physical development of certain vital brain regions.

The infant who experiences satisfactory care, attention and nurturing, on the other hand, will learn to better control his drives and impulses, having learned from the mother to keep him/herself relatively calm and not exhibit unwarranted distress if his/her biological needs happen to not be instantaneously met (this ability is known as the competence to ‘self-regulate’).

Many of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD), which is linked to childhood trauma, reflect some the symptoms listed above.

 

eBooks:

DIGITAL BOOK THUMBNAIL 3 - Early Trauma's Effect On Development Of Id And Ego      61VHBbAyGwL. UY250  126x200 - Early Trauma's Effect On Development Of Id And Ego    51Qg4LQa aL. UY250  126x200 - Early Trauma's Effect On Development Of Id And Ego

Above eBooks now available for instant download on Amazon. Click here or on above images for further details.

 

OTHER RESOURCES :

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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When Parents Threaten Their Child With Violence

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I have written elsewhere about how my mother was prone to unpredictable, unprovoked outbursts of extreme hostility when I was very young but it is only now I feel I want to be a little more specific – something has prevented me from going into detail up until now, although that ‘something’ is very hard to define, despite the fact I have (I hope!) gained a fair amount of insight into my past and its effects upon me.

When she was angry my mother’s verbal rage knew no limits ; her frequently repeated threats or hurtful statements included :

  • ‘I feel evil towards you! Evil!’ (The second ‘evil’ delivered in a particularly melodramatic, emphatic and malevolent tone)
  • ‘I feel I could knife you!’
  • ‘I feel murderous towards you!’  (or, if I was ‘lucky’, she’d be slightly more restrained and scream at me the rather more banal phrase, ‘I wish to Christ I’d never bloody had you!’ (though delivered in a tone of devastating conviction and palpable authenticity; one could almost feel the hot waves of hatred emanating from her).

(There may well be still worse examples which I have either repressed or which occurred when I was too young for them to form long-term memories – I simply can’t know; but this, of course, is true of everyone).

At the time, being on the receiving end of these, how shall I put it, rather less than maternally loving statements, I think I felt very little; just numb, in fact, as if everything had gone hazy and foggy. It seems I must have mentally shut down as a form of self-preservation; this is a psychological defense mechanism I now know to be called ‘dissociation‘).

For years, even decades, I kept these memories at the very back of my mind, so to speak, but, of course, that will have only worsened their psychological effect.

It is only now, decades later (I was about twelve-years-old when my mother’s verbal aggression was at its most vehement, just as I was entering puberty) that I feel ready to attempt to mentally process such experiences. However, painful this may be, avoiding doing so is likely to be even more so.

Very few of the articles I publish on this site are so personal and I apologize for, once again, indulging myself. However, my next post will be more objective and its topic directly related this one : ‘The Effects Of Parental Threats Of Violence Upon The Child.’

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Need For Fame Can Stem From Childhood Trauma

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Why Do Some Seem To Have A Need For Fame?

Our sense of self and true identity is most heavily influenced, according to modern psychodynamic theory, by the quality of our relationship with our primary carer (most frequently the mother) during our first year of life.

Those of us who experienced a poor quality of care during this critical developmental period, such as not having been treated with sensitivity or empathy, not having had our fundamental emotional needs met, or because we were abused or otherwise neglected, are at the greatest risk of developing a poor sense of self-identity in adulthood (i. e. a feeling of not knowing, or being uncertain about, ‘who we really are’).

Fame As A Coping Strategy :

Some people attempt to deal with their weak sense of identity by excessive use of drink and drugs, not infrequently leading to addiction.

However, others, to compensate for their feelings of lack of identity, may become addicted to the feelings, emotions and sensations that being famous can induce.

For example, being recognized in the street (although in many ways annoying, or even distressing) can provide an ephemeral sense of identity and temporarily heighten one’s feelings of self-esteem and personal worth.

Similarly, being on stage in front of enraptured, adoring, possibly hysterical fans floods the celebrity’s brain with chemicals such as oxytocin and dopamine, providing an almost transcendental ‘buzz’ which no drug, it is said, can accurately recreate.

 

But Who Am I?

However, the problem is that part of being famous frequently involves adopting a persona, or, to use a more clinical expression, false self.

Because it is the false self that is recognized by fans, rather than the real self, identity confusion is intensified; the real self is neglected and remains unknown, increasing feelings of isolation and loneliness. The famous person may then become even more out of touch, or dissociated from, who s/he ‘really is’.

Indeed, famous people frequently lament the fact that their fans think they know them but, in reality, have no idea of what they’re really like. In fact, the persona and ‘true self’ may be radically different – the former confident, even swaggering, and the latter, the real self, deeply insecure and emotionally fragile.

 

Effects On Relationships:

The false self / persona may become so dominant (in effect, the famous person may take to ‘hiding behind’ it) that people who knew the famous person before his/her success may no longer ‘recognize’ him/her and become alienated. This can then lead to the breakdown of such relationships, leaving the famous person feeling more vulnerable than ever and more reliant still on unhealthy relationships with ‘hangers on’ who serve only to encourage the development of the false self.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Healthy Guilt Versus Unhealthy Guilt

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Healthy And Unhealthy Guilt :

Like all emotions, feelings of guilt evolved in humans for their ‘survival value.’ However, feeling guilty is (at minimum) an unpleasant sensation so what ‘survival value’, or, to put it simply, benefits, does the emotion bring?

The answer to this question is that healthy feelings of guilt motivate us to preserve our personal standards/morality/ethics which, in turn, makes our relationships with others more likely to thrive (e.g. our conscience makes it less likely we will treat others badly and risk losing them as allies/friends).

However, feelings of guilt can also be unhealthy and affect our lives adversely. Those of us who have suffered significant childhood trauma are particularly likely to experience unhealthy guilt which, unfortunately, often persists into adulthood. I provide some examples of how feelings of unhealthy guilt may develop below :

– a child whose parents divorce may irrational blame him/herself for this divorce

– a child whose parent dies may irrationally feel guilty moving on with his/her own life

– a child whose mother suffers from depression may irrationally feel guilty enjoying him/herself

– a child who is perpetually criticized and treated negatively by his/her parents may develop deep seated and pervasive feelings of irrational guilt that are likely to persist into adulthood in the absence of effective therapy.

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WHAT ARE THE ADVERSE EFFECTS OF SUCH IRRATIONAL, UNHEALTHY GUILT?

  1. DISTRESS – this can range from the uncomfortable at one end of the spectrum to excruciating and paralyzing at the other.
  2. AN INABILITY PROPERLY TO FOCUS UPON ONE’S OWN NEEDS
  3. SELF-HATRED, EXTREMELY LOW SELF-ESTEEM, LACK OF CONFIDENCE
  4. FEELINGS OF SHAME – if we are made to feel guilty to a significant degree, and often enough, during childhood we can develop a constant, profound feeling of shame. [The difference between feelings of ‘guilt’ and feelings of ‘shame is that when we feel guilty we feel we’ve DONE something bad, but, when we feel shame, we feel that we ARE bad (i.e. intrinsically bad)]. Click here to read my article about How A Child’s View Of Their Own ‘Badness’ Is Perpetuated.
  5. POOR CONCENTRATION AND FOCUS (due to intrusive, guilt-ridden thoughts and ruminations)
  6. POOR PERFORMANCE AT SCHOOL OR WORK (linked to number 5, above)
  7. LOSS OF CAPACITY TO ENJOY LIFE / WON’T PERMIT ONESELF TO DO ENJOYABLE THINGS (due to feelings/beliefs along the lines of ‘I don’t deserve to be happy’ or ‘it would be morally wrong to enjoy myself’). Such feelings/beliefs can also be related to conscious or unconscious desires to punish oneself.

It can be seen, then, that, whilst ‘healthy guilt’ has benefits, ‘unhealthy guilt’ serves no beneficial purpose and is solely destructive.

THE LINK BETWEEN UNHEALTHY GUILT AND PSYCHIATRIC CONDITIONS :

Unhealthy guilt can be a symptom of certain psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Such guilt can be unremitting and overwhelming and, as such, should be treated by a relevantly qualified profession.

 Self-hypnosis MP3 – help alleviate feelings of guilt and shame. Click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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The Adversity Hypothesis : Posttraumatic Growth

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‘He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.’

AESCHYLUS, AGAMEMNON 


The vast majority of studies examining the effects of trauma on the individual have concentrated on the negative effects such as depression, anxiety, phobias, flashbacks, nightmares, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and so on. However, more recently, an increasing number of studies have focused on how the experience of trauma may, in some ways, actually benefit us.

Indeed, the ADVERSITY HYPOTHESIS puts forward the proposal that adversity and suffering are necessary for optimum human development.

Closely linked to the adversity hypothesis is the concept of posttraumatic growth (PTG).

The theory of posttraumatic growth suggests that some individuals who undergo traumatic experiences find that they grow and develop as a person in beneficial ways once the trauma is over. These benefits often include :

  1. Discovering/developing strengths and abilities that weren’t apparent prior to the traumatic experience and becoming a more confident person as a result.
  2. Feeling stronger as a person in the knowledge one can survive great difficulty and suffering.
  3. Developing a greater appreciation of life once the trauma is over.
  4. Strengthening of pre-existing valuable and meaningful friendships/bonds/relationships (the colloquial expression ‘finding out who your real friends are’ is of relevance here).
  5. Gaining of a better perspective on life.
  6. Gaining insight into life’s priorities and what one really wants to do with it to make it fulfilling – often leading to decisive and positive life-change.
  7. Gaining a deeper insight into life in general leading to spiritual growth and development.

Indeed, there may well be other benefits, but the above list represents the main ones so far highlighted by the research carried out to date.

It is also worth noting that research carried out by Pennebaker (1990) suggests that if we are able to ‘make sense of’ our traumatic experiences in a way that is meaningful to us we are particularly likely to benefit from posttraumatic growth.

Also, research by Helgeson (2006) suggests that individuals are most likely to start to benefit from posttraumatic growth if their traumatic experiences ceased two years ago or more.

COPING PROCESS OR OUTCOME?

Whether posttraumatic growth represents an active coping process or is a more passive outcome of the experiencing of trauma (or, indeed,  is a combination of the two) is still a matter of debate amongst psychologists; notwithstanding this, not everyone who experiences trauma also experiences posttraumatic growth.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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